Weisz began her acting career at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in the early 1990s, then started working in television, appearing in Inspector Morse, the British mini-series Scarlet and Black, and the television film Advocates II. She made her film début in the film Death Machine (1994), but her breakthrough role came in the film Chain Reaction (1996), leading to a high-profile role as Evelyn Carnahan-O'Connell in the films The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). Other notable films featuring Weisz are Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy, Constantine, The Fountainand The Constant Gardener, for which she received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors' Guild award for her supporting role as Tessa Quayle. She has been labelled an "English rose" since her minor role in Stealing Beauty (1996).
Weisz also works in theatre. Her stage breakthrough was the 1994 revival of Noël Coward's play Design for Living, which earned her the London Critics Circle Award for the most promising newcomer. Weisz's performances also include the 1999 Donmar Warehouse production of Tennessee Williams' Suddenly, Last Summer, and their 2009 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in the latter play earned her the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress. She has recently played Evanora in Oz the Great and Powerful.
Weisz was born in Westminster, London, and grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Her father, George Weisz, was an inventor from Hungary. Her mother, Edith Ruth (née Teich), is a teacher-turned-psychotherapist from Vienna, Austria. Her parents fled to England before the outbreak of the Second World War, to escape the Nazis. Her father is Jewish; her maternal grandfather, Alexander Teich, was also Jewish, and had been a secretary of the World Union of Jewish Students. Her mother's ancestry includes Austrian Jewish, "Catholic Viennese" and Italian. Weisz's mother was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and, according to Vogue, later converted to Judaism. Weisz has a younger sister, Minnie, who is a photographer and curator. Her parents sometimes spoke German at home.
Weisz's parents valued the arts and encouraged her and her sister to form opinions of their own by introducing them to family debates. Her parents later divorced. Weisz left North London Collegiate School and attended Benenden School for one year completing A-levels at St Paul's Girls School. Weisz claimed that she was a bad student until an English Literature teacher inspired her at the age of 16.
Known for being an "English rose" due to her appearance, Weisz started modelling when she was 14. In 1984, she gained public attention when she turned down an offer to star in King David with Richard Gere.
After leaving school, she entered Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where she graduated with a 2:1 Bachelor of Arts degree in English. During her university years, where she was a contemporary of Sacha Baron Cohen, Alexander Armstrong, Sue Perkins, Mel Giedroyc, Richard Osman, and Ben Miller (whom she briefly dated), she appeared in various student productions, co-founding a student drama group called Cambridge Talking Tongues. It won a Guardian Student Drama Award at the 1991 Edinburgh Fringe Festival for an improvised piece called Slight Possession, directed by David Farr. The group existed until 1993.
She appeared on the 1992 television film Advocates II, followed by roles in the Inspector Morse episode "Twilight of the Gods", and the BBC's steamy period drama Scarlet and Black, alongside Ewan McGregor.Rachel Weisz signing an autograph during the press conference for The Brothers Bloom in 2008
Weisz started her film career with a minor role in the 1994 film Death Machine, but her first major role came in the 1996 film Chain Reaction, which also starred Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman. She next appeared as Miranda Fox in Stealing Beauty, directed by the Italian Academy Award-winner Bernardo Bertolucci, where she was first labelled an "English rose".
Following this, Weisz found roles in the 1997 American drama Swept from the Sea, the 1998 British television comedy-drama My Summer with Des, the Michael Winterbottom's crime movie I Want You, and David Leland's The Land Girls, based on Angela Huth's book of the same name.
In 1999, Weisz played Greta in the historical film Sunshine. The same year, her international breakthrough came with the 1999 adventure film The Mummy, in which she played the female lead opposite Brendan Fraser. Her character was the English Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan, who undertook an expedition to the fictional ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra to discover an ancient book.Variety criticised the direction of the film, writing: "(the actors) have been directed to broad, undisciplined performances [...] Buffoonery hardly seems like Weisz's natural domain, as the actress strains for comic effects that she can't achieve". She followed this up with the sequel The Mummy Returns in 2001, which grossed an estimated $433 million worldwide, (equivalent to $571 million in 2013 dollars) higher than the original's $260 million (equal to $364 million in 2013 dollars). In 2000, she portrayed Petula in the film Beautiful Creatures, following this up with 2001's Enemy at the Gates, and the 2002 comedy-drama About a Boy, with Hugh Grant, based on Nick Hornby's 1998 novel. In 2003 she played Marlee in the adaptation of John Grisham's legal thriller novel The Runaway Jury, along with Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack and Gene Hackman; as well as starring in the film adaptation of the romantic comedy-drama play The Shape of Things.
In 2004, Weisz appeared in the comedy Envy, opposite Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Christopher Walken. The film failed at the box office. Variety magazine opined that Weisz and co-star Amy Poehler "get fewer choice moments than they deserve." Her next role was alongside Keanu Reeves in Constantine, based on the comic book Hellblazer. Film Threat called her portrayal "effective at projecting scepticism and, eventually, dawning horror".Weisz in 2007
Her next appearance, in 2005, was in Fernando Meirelles's The Constant Gardener, a film adaptation of a John le Carré thriller set in the slums of Kibera and Loiyangalani, Kenya. Weisz played an activist, Tessa Quayle, married to a British embassy official. The film was critically acclaimed, earning Weisz the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. UK newspaper The Guardian noted that the film "established her in the front rank of British actors", while the BBC wrote: "Weisz is exceptional: film star charisma coupled with raw emotion in a performance to fall in love with".
In 2006, she starred in Darren Aronofsky's romantic drama The Fountain. The San Francisco Chronicle found her portrayal of Queen Isabel "less convincing" than other roles. That same year, she provided the voice for Saphira in the fantasy film Eragon; and rejected an offer to star in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor due to script issues. The part eventually went to Maria Bello. Her subsequent films include the 2007 Wong Kar-wai drama My Blueberry Nights, and Rian Johnson's 2008 caper film The Brothers Bloom, alongside Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo. In 2009 she played the lead role of Hypatia of Alexandria in the historical drama film Agora, a Spanish production directed by Alejandro Amenábar. The New York Times called her portrayal "adept", noting that she imparted "a sympathetic presence".Weisz at a photocall for the showing of The Bourne Legacy at the 2012 Deauville American Film Festival.
Weisz starred in the film The Whistleblower, which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010. The film was based on the true story of human trafficking by employees of contractor DynCorp. During its première, the intense depiction of the treatment meted out to victims by the kidnappers made a woman in the audience faint. Variety magazine wrote "Weisz's performance holds the viewer every step of the way." That same year, she guest-starred in the animated series The Simpsons, in the 22nd season episode "How Munched is That Birdie in the Window?". Weisz's 2011 roles included an adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play The Deep Blue Sea, Fernando Meirelles' psychosexual drama 360, the BBC espionage thriller Page Eight, and the thriller film Dream House, alongside Daniel Craig.
She filmed scenes for To the Wonder, a 2012 romantic drama written and directed by Terrence Malick, alongside Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, and Rachel McAdams; her scenes were cut. She has also starred in the 2012 action thriller film The Bourne Legacy based on the series of books by Robert Ludlum.
On stage, Weisz's breakthrough role was that of Gilda in Sean Mathias's 1994 revival of Noël Coward's Design for Living at the Gielgud Theatre, for which she received the London Critics' Circle Award for the most promising newcomer. Her portrayal was described as "wonderful" by a contemporary review. In 1999, she played the role of Catherine in the Donmar Warehouse production of Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer, What's on Stage called her "captivating", stating that she brought "a degree of credibility to a difficult part". The same year, Weisz appeared inNeil LaBute's The Shape of Things at the Almeida Theatre, then temporarily located in London's Kings Cross. CurtainUp called her "a sophisticated, independent artist" with "great stage presence". In 2009, she appeared as Blanche DuBois, in Rob Ashford's revival of the play A Streetcar Named Desire. Her performance in the play was praised by the critics, the Daily Telegraphnoted that she "rises to the challenge magnificently". Weisz and her husband currently star in a Broadway play titled Betrayal. It began performances in October 2013, and is set to continue until January 2014.
Weisz gained honours for her work in The Constant Gardener, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. She was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Furthermore, the role also led to her receiving the London Critics' Circle Film Award for British Actress of the Year, the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress, and the San Diego Film Critics' Society Award for Best Supporting Actress. Additionally, she was nominated for the Online Film Critics' Society Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2006, Weisz was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was also honoured at the Los Angeles BAFTA ceremony with the Britannia Award for Artist of the Year.
In 1991, Weisz received the Student Drama Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for her part in the play Slight Possession. In 1994, she was awarded the London Critics' Circle Award for Most Promising Newcomer, for the playDesign for Living. In January 2010, the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards in London named her Best Actress of 2009, for her performance as Blanche Dubois in the Donmar revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. She also won the coveted 2010 Olivier Award for Best Actress for the same role.
Weisz began dating American filmmaker and producer Darren Aronofsky in the summer of 2001. They met backstage at London's Almeida Theatre, where she was starring in The Shape of Things. Weisz moved to New York with Aronofsky the following year; in 2005, they were engaged. Their son, Henry Chance, was born in 2006 in New York City. The couple resided in the East Village in Manhattan. In November 2010, Weisz and Aronofsky announced that they had been apart for months, but remain close friends and are committed to bringing up their son together in New York.
Weisz began dating English actor Daniel Craig in December 2010 and they married on 22 June 2011 in a private New York ceremony, with only four guests in attendance, including Weisz's son and Craig's daughter. Weisz, a British citizen by birth, became a naturalised American citizen in 2011.
In 2009, Weisz expressed her views on Botox to Harper's Bazaar – "It should be banned for actors, as steroids are for sportsmen. Acting is all about expression; why would you want to iron out a frown?" During her career, she has been featured on the covers of magazines such as insideKENT, Vogue and Esquire. She serves as a muse to fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez, and was named L'Oréal's global ambassador in 2010.
Weisz is represented by Creative Artists Agency. In 2001, she was involved in a traffic accident while travelling in a cab that was hit by a lorry; Weisz was unharmed. On 7 July 2007, she presented at the American leg of Live Earth, along with Alec Baldwin and Kevin Bacon.